Microsoft today announced (but did not release) major updates to its Windows Live Essentials (apps suite) and Windows Live services, as part of the Wave 3 release set. Based on a recent interview with Brian Hall, I’ll be publishing a news story (on WinInfo) and a full preview (on the SuperSite) today. But I did at least want to give you a heads-up about what’s happening. Note that virtually none of this is available right now. Most of this will ship by the end of the year.

Windows Live Essentials. The Windows Live application suite will be updated to near-final RC status in the coming week (sans Windows Live Movie Maker, which will need many months more of development). You can expect a final release by very early 2009, based on feedback. Maybe even in December. There are new features all over the apps suite. Perhaps the most exciting are in Windows Live Photos, which now integrates in a fairly incredible way with the new Windows Live Photos services and, using Windows Live Sync, with all other installs of Windows Live Photos you make across all your PCs. That’s right: It will sync photo libraries automatically from PC to PC. Good stuff.

Windows Live Hotmail. Though Microsoft is still in the final phases of rolling out the new Wave 3 Hotmail UI, more features are coming. All Hotmail accounts will get free POP3 support for the first time and the ability to get and send email from multiple email (i.e. non-Hotmail) accounts. Storage is being upped considerably and the new calendar component is going final.

Windows Live Messenger. Microsoft’s IM client will deeply integrate with all of the new Wave 3 cross-network goodness (see below), making it one of the key hubs for sharing and connecting with friends. The “What’s New” feature is being updated dramatically to support this (so I might  have to actually turn it back on; it’s just noise in the current release).

Windows Live SkyDrive. Storage is being upped from 5 GB to 25 GB and consolidated with several other Live services, including Windows Live Spaces (blogging) and the new Windows Live Photos.

Windows Live Groups. A new services for collaborating, sharing, and connecting online with friends. Will include shared calendar functionality, shared storage, shared email addresses, and shared instant messaging.

Windows Live Home and cross-network integration. Microsoft has partnered with over 50 of the top social networking services online to make Windows Live the center of your online experience. This is pretty incredible stuff, but a new version of home.live.com will aggregate everything you and your friends are doing online and give you a central console for exploring and sharing. It looks really interesting.

Windows Live Photos. Microsoft, finally, is creating a dedicated photo sharing service. Storage via Windows Live SkyDrive.

There’s more, but I gotta save something for today’s SuperSite article. See you in a few hours.